Since George Berkeley in 1710, philosophers have pondered whether a tree makes a sound when it falls in a forest in the middle of the night and no one is there to see it.
And now modern day philosophers and political analysts can debate whether a sound was made when the largest Knesset faction entered the government in the middle of the night and left 71 days later.
At least the tree made an imprint. Some branches inevitably fell down. It might even have injured an unperceptive animal.
Kadima entered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government at 2 a.m. on May 8, and when its 28 MKs left on Tuesday, the party’s leaders readily admitted that they had departed without making any impact whatsoever on Israel’s future.
The coalition had 66 MKs before, and it has 66 MKs again. The government was dealing with tough issues then, and those issues have not gone away.
What has gone away is the September 4 general election that would have been initiated early on May 8, had Kadima not joined the coalition. Now that election will be held some time in 2013, depending on Netanyahu’s ability to pass a new state budget.
It is possible that some of the Likud’s voters have also gone away. Netanyahu might have upset them by not making more compromises that would have enabled drafting more haredi yeshiva students to military or national service.
But how many of those voters will put equalizing the burden of IDF service at the top of the list of their priorities if the election is held in the spring of 2013? Between now and then, Iran could be attacked, or its nuclearization could be averted through non-military means.
The Palestinians could have a new leader. The US could have a new leader. A lot will inevitably change.
What is unlikely to change is Kadima’s political floundering.
A Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll published Friday found that under its current leader Shaul Mofaz, the party would win only eight seats, down from its current 28. Just three percent of Israelis said Mofaz was the most fit candidate for prime minister.
The poll predicted that if former prime minister Ehud Olmert is cleared of charges of accepting bribes in the Holyland trial, and if the trial takes place before the election, and if Kadima holds a leadership race, and if Olmert’s wife lets him run, and if he wins, and if he maintains the public support he received last Wednesday, the day after his exoneration, Kadima could win 17 seats. But those sure are a lot of ifs.
The poll revealed that if Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid agreed to run together with Olmert, the new mega-centrist party would win 30 seats, three more than the Likud. But even then the center-Right would maintain a majority to block the new party from forming the next government. Lapid said following the verdict that he would not consider running together with Olmert.
Perhaps had Mofaz remained in the government and affected real change, his party’s political fortunes could have turned around. Instead, he will go to the opposition, and the most likely scenario is that the reward for Mofaz standing on his principles will be more votes going to Lapid’s party-in-the-making and not to Kadima.
Kadima left the government over issues that may seem very important now, but in retrospect those issues could be seen as mere trees in a proverbial forest that they could not see.
They quit the coalition without making a sound, proving the philosophers right. And they also proved that sometimes when it comes to Israeli political parties, the bigger they are, the softer they fall.